I recently wrote about him on occasion of his birthday in January. He was 91, and I wished for him that 2023 would be a great year. He was still mobile a week before he died. Not mobile enough to go for a stroll, but he could get a snack from the refrigerator.
I don’t think he found much relief from the dementia caused by the mini-strokes from a few years ago. It’s been bad for his loved ones.
My middle brother would call him every month or so, and talk for hours. He hasn’t been able to handle phone calls for about a year. I would write him an e-mail periodically, and his daughter would read it to him. Later, he would tell her that I had called, and he would share the news. It’s been over a year since I last wrote. I just finished my 20th letter to him.
So, I’ve been told that you died. I saw on my phone that your daughter Sheila was calling me in the afternoon on Wednesday. It’s funny how fast the brain takes in information, and projects the possible outcomes. I knew that you had gone before answering. It didn’t help.
It’s been a few days now. A roller coaster of emotions, a Ferris wheel of departures. My car is now closer to the exit.
“Bob Stories” are on my mind. You certainly generated tons of memories. And naturally, that generates many questions that I never asked, and I couldn’t expect an answer from you for the last few years.
You were my connection to Gayle, though you never said much about her. Even when you were lucid, I never remembered to ask about her. I was always waiting for the right time. The same waiting time I had with our parents.
You were so much older than I, and you became somewhat mythical. You would visit on leave from the army, and there was always gear left behind. Web belts, canteens, pouches, even a training dummy M1 rifle. I always had the best stuff in the neighborhood to play army.
Weirdly, the one thing that stands out were the “white” Mickey Mouse boots. They were issued to you when you received advanced training for crashing helicopters in the snow. I think it was Mt. Rainier where you built snow caves, and wore insulated white rubber boots. They actually had a built in release valve to deflate the pressure built up when flying at height in the helicopter.
Obviously I had to wear a dozen socks to put on the boots, but I clumped around feeling pretty important for years. Then on another visit, you reclaimed them.
One year you left scuba diving equipment. I immediately drained the tank while sitting in the bottom of my friend’s pool. I didn’t swim, I just sat there, breathing underwater. Then I felt bad that I had used all the air. I did use the fins to learn to swim while camping. They were so much netter than the crummy cheap kids fins.
For years I spent more time with the objects that you left, and very little time talking with you. Later, when I was older we didn’t have much in common.
Then I was in the army and we shared ideas about weapons and things that were sharp. I think you were impressed when I brought up the black powder rifle that I had built. At least you enjoyed shooting it in the woods.
When visiting your house, I always asked, “How many weapons do you have within reach, as you sit in your Lazy-Boy?” If your answer was less than a dozen I would wonder what was wrong.
I am now sitting in my own Lazy Boy. I count ten, three of them Norwegian bearded axes. I’m a work in progress.
I’ll end this last letter knowing that I’ll still be talking to you, and remembering. You lead the way, my brother. I loved, and love you always.